Written by: Jenn Taylor, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
I get asked often how Dane and I have such a positive, thriving relationship. To make sure I’m completely transparent, this isn’t my first relationship; I'm divorced more than once. Reverse engineered made me an expert on how to have a successful relationship. Ironic, how that worked out?
Another thing that made me an expert on this topic is that Dane and I didn’t always have a good relationship. Our relationship, like many, went from really good, not good, bad, super awful, ugly, splitting up, to amazing, and it’s been amazing for years.
This is how we keep our relationship fresh and amazing despite challenges. And yes, this is how we keep it spicy. Dane and I maintain a really positive relationship together with 18 kids in the mix, and if we can do it, so can you.
We are a blended family, and our kids were supportive from the very beginning. Most of our kids were between the ages of 11 and 21, so they were kept somewhat in the loop about our dating lives. They knew we were dating people, and they loved being involved in the process in a limited way. This helped us as they understood they wouldn’t meet someone just because we had begun dating. They were able to voice their concerns, ask questions, and felt as though they had a say in the eventual blending of our lives together. We were open and honest when things started to get serious. They helped plan meetings and activities, and we asked them for their input. That doesn’t mean they were running the show. It means we heard them.
Involve your kids in a healthy way to your dating, so they feel valued and seen. After all, they’re part of this if you move forward.
Dane and I texted the week before we met. We sent each other goofy pictures and really kept in touch with each other during the day via text. I think our personalities are pretty goofy, which made things a lot easier.
If you’re in the beginning stages of dating, be yourself.
We’re goofy and fun, and we were both very much ourselves. To set some parameters, we text the same amount now, over 7 years later than we did in the beginning. We were realistic about the amount we texted. We didn’t text more because the relationship was new. This set us up for success down the road because it was sustainable. It may sound odd, but we have a really great text relationship. We’ve used it to keep us connected when we’re apart; we send pertinent info, ask questions — never stopped learning about each other. We’re still hilariously goofy and fun, with some sexy thrown in there pretty often.
Determine what ways you can connect that make you both happy and are sustainable. Notes? Texts? And do them regularly.
We happen to love a lot of the same things and have similar values. We capitalize on that. We love being outside. We respect and adore each other. We have the same list of priorities — God, ourselves, each other, our kids, everyone, and everything else. We’re both physically active, we eat healthy (for the most part). We both love to laugh, prioritize date night and listen to each other. We spend every morning together while drinking coffee and connecting. We’re great at capitalizing on stolen moments with each other. We’re affectionate in front of our kids and with our kids.
Find what connects you — your commonalities — and capitalize on it.
We're each other's best friends. Hands down, this was extremely important to us. Dane is my best friend. He’s the first one I want to share things with, the one I want to bounce things off, and the person who lets me talk to process, so my brain doesn’t explode. He’s my biggest cheerleader and fan, and I am the same for him.
Be your partner’s best friend.
One thing that we made sure we did was maintaining our own identity. Dane plays basketball, and I love to watch him, though I don’t understand the rules. I do know if he's had a good game. I’ve taken videos and edited them for him so he can see what he could do differently. I can discuss the entire game and ask questions if I don’t understand something. I know if the game is going well for him — outside of the score — just by watching his mannerisms.
I’m a runner. He knows if I've had a good run or not based on me crossing that finish line. He knows my general time. He waits at the finish line for me, and he captures it on video for me. He can tell not only by my time but my expression if it was a good run. He listens to the people ahead of me, makes comments about the race to get an idea of how I’m doing. And, he knows I can’t talk right away because I might throw up.
The biggest thing that we've done is kept and that what makes us happy individually. We support each other without taking on the other person’s identity, and we also find things we like to do together.
Keep doing what you love and support your partner’s ambitions. Capitalize on where they crossover and don’t take on their identity.
In a relationship, finances are something that people really struggle with. Dane and I have very different ways of attacking things, but we want the same end goal. We check in monthly with each other and make sure that we still shoot for the same goal. We ask, "Are you just doing it in a way that's different from me?" This helps us know that we are on the same page and understand each other’s priorities.
Finances used to be difficult and stressful, and one day we hashed it out. The tension we had been feeling was gone in 5-minutes. We were brutally honest with each other, had numbers written down, and compromised easily. For years, what’s worked for us is having our own private accounts that both link to a joint account. We put money into the joint account as we need to, which is where all the household bills are paid. We have autonomy in our personal accounts.
Hash it out and back up your perspective with numbers to come to a healthy agreement on how you do your finances. There is no one right way.
Communication is the biggest issue in relationships. Dane and I spend time really touching base and communicating. We appreciate our older kids when they can watch our youngest one because we can run to the store or do something quick. As often as we can, we take advantage of just those few stolen moments with each other. I'm gonna say it again, our attitude, fun, adventure, and silliness really are positives that made this relationship so incredible. Knowing that we're not going to always agree on everything, but we can figure out a compromise if we have a conversation.
We also took the Love Languages quiz and the Myers-Briggs personality test — both free online and even your kids can take (which I highly recommend). It was important to know about each other in a deeper way, so our personalities made more sense. Many conflicts could be resolve if we simply spoke each other’s “languages.”
Have conversations, not confrontations, to work through your communication. Learn about what makes each other tick.
Getting out of the house and away from the kids has been important in keeping our relationship a priority and not getting into a rut. Having a date night once a week and implementing rules for date night helped.
One rule is we really try hard not to talk about our kids. That can be difficult because sometimes our date is the only time that we are not around our kids, but we try to minimize that. Another hard and fast rule is that we do not talk about our relationship. Date night is not the time to hash out every issue we've ever had. This was a bigger deal for me because I felt like I finally got him alone, and we could talk about our negative stuff, but it wasn't healthy.
We decided to set a separate time to discuss things in our relationship — what we were struggling with daily when we are touching base. That fostered such an open relationship between us. We have fewer issues. Date night shows that we've put each other as a top priority. If we fail, the family fails, and it's even more challenging to make sure that you're awesomely successful in a blended family. Date night taught our kids how important our relationship is, and for fun, we let them create dates for us.
Date night is one way you can make your relationship a priority. Set rules so that it’s fun and engaging in a positive way.
Dane definitely parents his kids more, and I parent my kids more. We always know what the other one is doing, thinking and where we're at. This is to ensure that we understand the parenting direction with each other's kids. Discipline is a really big difficult thing to navigate with a blended family, and it’s vital. This can include ex-spouses, schools and school activities, follow-up on discipline, etc. We’re blessed that we parent similarly, and our kids know we check in often with each other and with perspective ex-spouses. Yes, there are issues that will come up, and being on the same page with your partner is a huge part of this working well.
Stay in your lane when parenting kids, and communicate your parenting direction.
Sex. Like most aspects of a relationship, sex comes down to communication. We have a lot of kids, and we both work hard. So, making sure we keep things spunky and spicy is very important. We capitalize on stolen moments together when possible, and if we have to, we schedule sex. I know that sounds un-sexy. However, it gives us something to look forward to and text each other about during the day. This is the only person I’m having sex with. It’s a healthy part of our relationship that brings us closer together emotionally and is a fantastic physical release. So, we really need to figure out what works for us. Mornings aren’t a favorite. Bedtime is the most convenient, and if sleep needs to be high on the priority list due to schedules, we go to bed a little early.
Speak up about what works for you from the time of day to the positions that feel the best. Sex is the dessert of a relationship. Eat dessert.
Dane is the guy I love, respect, and care about more than anyone in the world. He's the one I want to get the best of me because he definitely sees the worst in me. If you’re in a relationship and you stopped shaving your legs, putting on makeup, or dressing up for one another — start doing it again.
Take care of yourself and put yourself first because when you're single, the first thing you're going to do is sign yourself up for Brazilian Butt waxing — just in case you meet some guy and want to have sex. This goes for me too. Manscape, brush your teeth, put on a nice shirt. Treat your partner like the relationship is new, and it will feel that way. Dane and I really like to dress up for each other. We like to have fun together. We like to support each other and respect each other because this friendship ultimately is what we want to stand the test of time.
When you keep each other as a top priority, things stay spicy.
Jenn Taylor, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Jenn Taylor is a mom of 18 and The Naked Podcaster, a Mindset Coach, and Motivational Speaker. She is also an NLP Practitioner and has 15+ years in the foster care sector as both a parent and a trainer, has written the blog "Mom’s Running It" for 9 years, and is a published author of a self-help memoir "Hello, My Name Is... Warrior Princess". She teaches Compounding Joy, bringing fast, easy, actionable exercises to people to increase their joy and gratitude. She is also married to an amazing man in Reno, NV, is a runner, minimalist, and healthy lifestyle enthusiast. Compounding Joy, using the theory of compound interest to create a happier life! If you’ve attended events or heard speakers in the past and gotten excited about making changes only to return home and not know what to do with the information, or feel frustrated at not knowing how to implement the information, you’ll love this talk! Compounding Joy brings fast, easy, actionable exercises to people to increase their joy and gratitude. Not only will you walk away with what to do, but you’ll also know how in quick, easy steps.